The Nobel Prize in Physics 2011
Born: 1959, Champaign-Urbana, IL, USA
Affiliation at the time of the award: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Berkeley, CA, USA; University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA
Prize motivation: “for the discovery of the accelerating expansion of the Universe through observations of distant supernovae”
Prize share: 1/2
Saul Perlmutter grew up outside Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His parents were professors of chemical and biomolecular engineering and social work administration, respectively. After studying at Harvard University, Perlmutter received his PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1986. He conducted his Nobel Prize-winning research at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. Perlmutter is a co-founder of the Supernova Cosmology Project and a Professor of Physics at the University of California, Berkeley. He is married with one daughter.
The universe’s stars and galaxies are moving away from one another; the universe is expanding. Up until recently, the majority of astrophysicists believed that this expansion would eventually wane, due to the effect of opposing gravitational forces. Saul Perlmutter, Brian Schmidt, and Adam Riess studied exploding stars, called supernovae. Because the light emitted by stars appears weaker from a larger distance and takes on a reddish hue as it moves further from the observer, the researchers were able to determine how the supernovae moved. In 1998 they reached a surprising result: the universe is expanding at an ever-increasing rate.